Yemenity2010's Blog

Brutal Attack on Parisian Satirical Paper

Posted in Uncategorized by yemenity2010 on 07/01/2015

Just today when I was about to put the finishing touches to a little light-weight piece about Paris, where we (me and my wife) spent a few hours last summer en route to Mexico, tragic news broke from the French capital. Apparently, armed men entered the facilities of a well-known French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Twelve people have so far been reported dead, according to Huffington Post. More on this story is available from Al Jazeera English, BBC, CNN and probably a number of other sources. The publisher of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier was one of the victims, according to multiple sources. Also, one policeman was supposedly shot dead by the assassins who reportedly were masked, dressed in black and witnesses near the scene stated that they were shouting ”We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”. The paper has published provoking images of Muhammad before and was firebombed three years ago.

French President François Hollande called the massacre barbaric and ‘an attack on free speech’, and the French Muslim Council shared a similar statement, ”This extremely grave barbaric action is also an attack on democracy and the freedom of the press” (see Al Jazeera English for more). BBC also runs an accompanying story about the satirical paper and its tradition of pushing boundaries.

Tragic news also arrived from Yemen, the troubled country where I first started writing this blog. At least 38 people were killed by a car bomb close to the Police Academy in the capital Sana’a. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for this attack, but the target seems to have been members of the Houthi tribe, which lately has come to control large parts of the capital and also has a long running feud with AQAP, the Yemeni wing of Al Qaeda. AJE recently ran an analysis of this on-going conflict, which some people believe could lead to ”an all-out sectarian war”.


Dangerous Year for International Reporters

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 27/12/2014

International reporters faced many risks – as usual – this year. Maybe even more so than recent years, judging from a recent report from CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists). Worst place to be? Not surprisingly, Syria.

As a rule, CPJ states, nine out of ten killed in the line of duty are ”local peopl covering local stories”. In 2014, almost one out of four journalists killed were foreign correspondents. All in all, 60 journalists or more died in 2014 while on assignment. Some of the most well-known cases were Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff, kidnapped and executed by the so-called Islamic State, operating in Iraq and Syria. In Syria alone, 17 reporters were killed. In Iraq there were five, four in Israel/Palestine, five in Ukraine and three in Pakistan. Most of these countries are already considered dangerous places for journalists because of prolonged armed conflicts, while the three murdered reporters in Paraguay was unusual.

Other trends emerging in the report: Half of the killings happened in the Middle East. More than 40 precent of the journalists killed were targeted. Some of them had received threats before. The most dangerous topics to cover are – also not unexpected – politics, war and human rights issues. CPJ, an organisation that’s been doing these investigations for over 20 years, emphasizes their strict criteria for determining whether or not a reporter or photographer really was killed ”in relation to his or her work”. Other similar organizations might use ”different criteria” and ”cite higher numbers of deaths”.

For more details, visit the CPJ homepage.

Yemen Still Cause for Concern, According to UK Report

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 01/05/2014

kullarostadbearb”Widespread violations of human rights in Yemen continued during 2013, with the government showing limited capacity to improve the situation.” 

The very first sentence of a new report from the UK government.

So, what’s new? The government of the United Kingdom recently published a report on human rights and democracy around the world, including a chapter on Yemen, titled ”Yemen – Country of Concern”. Hardly unexpected, since that country always seems to be a source of concern for many concerned people inside and outside its borders. I stumbled on the current report thanks to a mention on another blog called The Wadi.

So, what’s the state of affairs in Yemen right now or at least during 2013, according to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Here are some excerpts: The minimum legal age for marriage has been an issue for some time now, since Yemen is one of the countries where a significant number of – yes, mostly girls – end up being married at a very early age. A so-called National Dialogue Conference has recommended changes, such as implementing av minimum legal age in this case, but really making it happen could take some time.

DSC06122Freedom of expression is said to have improved. Slightly, at least. The troubled nation is still parked among the lowest-rated in the World Press Freedom Index, currently 169 out of 179. Human rights defenders are still reported to suffer perscution. Yemen is presently ruled by what is called a transitional government as a result of the protests and upheavals that started in 2011 and which made long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh resign and leave the country. There is room for improvement when it comes to the justice system, according to the new report. Evidence-based convictions are not as common as they should be, apparently. No surprise there either. My personal impression, based on the few things I managed to learn during my one year in Yemen in 2010 was that the justice system is arbitrary, to say the least.

The death penalty is still used. A lot, probably. Earlier it has been sort of an official secret that many of the executions are carried out in secret, ‘off the record’ and all statistics on the matter are highly unreliable. The UK report specifically comments on the use of capital punishment for juvenile offenders, which is in fact ”prohibited under Yemeni law”. It is also claimed that African migrants have been captured on arrival and tortured to ”extort their family details”. Who’s doing this? The report does not accuse the government of being perpetrators (as far as I can see) but criticizes authorities for not doing enough about it. Furthermore, some 300 000 people could be displaced in the country, following armed conflicts going on there.

gitarrtriobearb1Women’s rights… Always an issue here. The report claims that Yemen is currently ranked at number 148 out of 148 nations in a UNDP Gender Inequality Index. (Note: I have tried to find that exact statistic at UNDP:s website, but so far I’ve got a little lost among their tables and hope to be able to explore the topic more later on, sometime). While there are progress in some areas, in others the trend is arguably going backwards. Women are, at least on the surface, getting more influence in politics, but some of the female activists are being ”co-opted by political parties”. There is also an important difference between educated women and the majority; poor, uneducated women who still remain outside any real sphere of influence. What springs to my mind is the gap between men and women concerning literacy rate. Although the situation seems to improve slightly, the majority of men are considered literate while the majority of women are not, according to all available statistics. And I suspect there is still a big difference between urban and rural areas when it comes to girls’ possibilities to get even basic schooling.

Economically, Yemen as a whole ”remains the poorest country in the Middle East” according to the report, suffering from ”high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition”. Some cold, hard numbers:

– Approximately ten million Yemenis do not get enough food each day

– 13 million lack access to safe water or sanitation

– 7,7 million don’t have access to health care

These were some ‘highlights’ from the corporate report ”Yemen – Country of Concern”, published by the United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 10 April 2014.

Space the Place to Be According to This Year’s Academy Awards?

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 02/03/2014

The race is on again. Tonight a number of awards will be handed out to people involved in the film industry. I really shouldn’t have, but still I couldn’t resist the temptation of predicting the outcome in the most talked-about categories. Even though I haven’t seen more than a few of the movies that really matter in this context. And the Big Big Winner, I presume, will be one that I wish I had seen, but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to it yet. However, it will be available on DVD in Sweden next week, according to usually reliable sources. More clues: It has a Mexican director, takes place in outer space (or at least outside the earth’s atmosphere) and stars an accomplished actress who once upon a time got her big breakthrough driving a bus at high speed to avoid being blown up by a bomb someone thought it prudent to place underneath said vehicle.


Other nominated films which I have seen and I hope will get some worthy attention are ”Captain Phillips” and ”12 Years a Slave” (which I have reviewed here). More details can be found at my more explicitly drama-dedicated forum Cast Against Hype.




Finland – Number One in Freedom of the Press According to New Report

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 16/02/2014

Processing the results as we speak… Another year, another ranking of press freedom in the world as we know it. Behind the report is Reporters Without Borders

Immediate observations from the map provided: In the top ten we find (and yes, in this case it’s a good thing to land on top) Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand and my home country Sweden – in that specific order. In the brief opening statement from the organization, the bottom three countries are also named; Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea where according to Reporters Without Borders ”freedom of information is non-existent”. Moreover, these nations are described as ”news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them”. All in all, 180 countries have been investigated.

I hope to be able to delve a little more deeply into the contents of this report soon… If time allows. For now, more on this topic can be found at the Reporters Without Borders own website.

The Newsroom – Sana’a Steil

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 21/09/2013

The truth is not always easy to find, but a fascinating place it is. New York journalist Jennifer Steil tried running a newspaper in Yemen a few years ago and shares her experiences in The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, a candid account of life and work in one of the oldest known civilizations on earth.


Among all the thank-you’s in the introductory pages, there is one dedicated to ”all the taxidrivers who kept their hands on the wheel”. Apparently, as described by the author in one  of the anecdotes later on, not all of them did…

But that’s more of a parenthesis. This contains a lot more than complaints and observations on the less appealing traits of Yemen. Cause that’s where the action takes place. Most of it in the capital Sana’a, supposedly one of the oldest cities on earth – some say 2500 years old, which is mentioned by the author. No one knows for sure. Personally I’m fascinated with her story not least because I spent one year in the same country, though most of the time in the city of Taiz. Also, my journalistic training adds to the common denominators. But I probably wouldn’t have fared so well running a newspaper in Yemen. That’s the challenge New Yorker Jennifer Steil decides to take on some time in 2006. To begin with, it’s only about visiting and teaching some journalistic principles for a few weeks, but she is asked to come back and embarks on an adventure where the cultural clashes become an everyday thing, it seems. Interestingly enough, a lot of it seems to come as a surprise to her, but she also appears to be a fast learner.

A general observation is that Steil’s revealing storytelling includes many details that could very possibly get people involved in trouble. Sometimes she leaves names out, often at least surnames remain undisclosed, and in the fine print you come across the disclaimer that she’s changed some ‘names and details’ and dealt with these issues before publishing the book. Granted, things like the female garments come up and Steil takes time to explain the difference between abaya and balto (two similar kinds of robes) as well as niqab (covers the face except the eyes), hijab (covers the hair) and burqa (hides the face and leaves only a grille for the eyes). At least what they mean in Yemen. For the record, the words I heard mostly were makrama instead of hijab and lithma – another epithet for niqab, the way I understood it.

One of the main dilemmas facing the new temporary editor of Yemen Observer in 2006 is obviously the lack of properly trained reporters. There are a couple of English-language papers in the country but it’s difficult to find staff combining knowledge of English and journalistic education. Also, Steil comments on cultural traits like ”The Yemeni education system does not encourage critical thinking. Children learn almost entirely by rote, and corporal punishment is common”. This and other cultural differences lead to a series of conflicts and frustrations in the process of finding news, writing, editing and producing the paper as a whole. Some of the predominantly young staffers catch on faster and Steil is obviously fonder of some of them, like the always curious and hardworking woman Zuhra. More troubling and unpredictable is the interaction with Observer’s owner Faris al-Sanabani, a man with more of a business-like background. Although educated in the US and with some big visions, he seems to be torn between loyalties; keeping good relations with the government does not always easily go hand in hand with being an independent publisher.

Remember, this was a few years before the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and Yemen had for almost three decades been ruled by authoritarian ex-military officer Ali Abdullah Saleh. Was he a dictator? Not strictly speaking.  As the author explains, Yemen at the time was at least a nominal democracy with some separated branches of government and a parliament with 301 elected members. Yes, there were elections even before the upheaval that started roughly two years ago. The system was more democratic than in many other neighbouring nations. But – Saleh as president and his party still controlled more power than would be accepted in a real democracy, the whole system was known for its corruption and presidential elections were for many years a formality, even if there were opponents. And campaigning.

Is there a form of recklessness inherited in the culture? Well, that might be a provoking statement, but the author makes some telling observations about the Yemeni mindset that are not completely misplaced, such as the frequent use of ”insha’allah” (roughly translated as ‘if God wants…’) as an excuse when things do no go as planned. It just wasn’t meant to be. ”The absence of personal responsibility bothers me” Steil writes (on page 158 to be exact) adding that her female reporters seem to work harder to get the stories finished in time, while the men ”spend the bulk of their time justifying their minimal efforts”. The latter have, in her view, in general had a more privileged upbringing and so… Well, the point is hard to miss. And the notion that girls usually have more obstacles to confront than boys in this respect is probably hard to argue with. bookrevies-blogotype1

Another worthwhile observation that at least seemed valid a few years ago (but may have to be reconsidered after what we’ve seen from the Yemeni version of the ‘Arab spring’ in the news in recent years) is the lack of witnesses in the stories published on especially dramatic events. The reporters seldom come near for example fresh crime scenes and as a rule they get most of their information from so called official sources, something also attributed to ordinary people often being afraid to talk to the press in these cases. This results in ”dull and often misleading stories” according to Steil. This while the country for years has been of interest to international media mainly for the terrorist groups based in the country, due to corruption and poverty. Steil emphasizes the government’s failing in translating the oil revenues to adequate services for people in general as a cause for that situation.

Although the lion’s share of the book takes place in 2006, the epilogue and afterword deals with some later developments, both personal and somewhat political, wrapping up the accounts during the fall of 2010. The conclusion after spending what turns out to be a couple of years in Yemen, is obviously a scepticism towards most of the reports coming out of there. ”It’s not a country a reporter can figure out in a flying visit… The only way to stand a chance of knowing what is really going on in Yemen is to be there. And even then the truth is elusive.” Hard to argue with that one as well.

By the way – I wonder what Aaron Sorkin could make out of this story if he decided to give it a shot?

Reviewed: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil (Broadway Paperback 2011).

Related: Steil’s official homepage

Intriguing ‘Game’ Seen from Different Perspectives

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 16/07/2013

It might seem like everyone is watching it. Obviously, it’s just a minority of the population on this planet. Still, if you get caught up in the machinations of ”Game of Thrones”, it might be difficult to leave… So, I couldn’t resist writing a few sentences myself and adding some comments from different perspectives about the HBO fantasy show. You can find it on one of my other forums, Cast Against Hype.

Some basic issues:

What are the core ingredients in most dramatical storytelling?

How do you create an interesting podcast about TV shows like this?

Is ”Game of Thrones” a great way of describing human history through metaphors and fictitious characters? One historian seems to think so.

Or is it, like one writer suggests, too grim for its own good?

Read more at Cast Against Hype.

There is also a version in Swedish available at Fair Slave Trade.

Somewhat related stuff: ”I’m a rebellious woman. I’m against traditions, stereotypes, and society rules that are imposed on us under no basis or logical ground.” Yemeni filmmaker Alaa Al-Eryani speaks up, interviewed by Yemen Times recently. Film producing, writing and human rights activism seem to be equally important to this up-and-coming talent, according to the newspaper.

A Tense and Turbulent Testament – For Better or Worse

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 29/03/2013

At least they seem to have had a decent special effects budget. The new dramatized Bible series, produced for History Channel by Mark Burnett and Roma ”Touched by an Angel” Downey is otherwise struggling with a certain turbulence of its own. And I’m not sure it could be characterized as a consistently well-structured drama, judging from the first 90-minute episode, shown on Swedish Television yesterday. But it does make these old stories, familiar for many of us, come alive again.

To begin with, we are transported without warning into the raging seas, where Mr Noah relates the highlights of World history thus far, from the Garden of Eden until the start of the Flood. The story of Adam and Eve and their lack of proper clothing does often seem to present a dilemma for not least overtly Christian filmmakers, but now they’re able to deal with that little incident with the forbidden fruit in a few quick cuts and then move on rapidly, well, rush, really – to other supposedly more edifying stuff. Such as jealousy, rage and revenge, massacres of enemies and… you know the drill. Large swaths of the Old Testament are by definition, not entirely appropriate for children, but they’re also fascinating stories that tell us a great deal about the delicate art of being human, interpreted again and again by generation after generation in a significant percentage of the world as we know it.

This time the focus first really aims at Abraham and his younger relative Lot, including the destruction of Sodom, here presented with an added bonus in the shape of Mature Mutant Ninja Angels of Death. I thought I might have missed something last time I read the story, and as it turns out the series creators have (surprisingly enough) taken some certain dramatic licence here and there. I double-checked with Genesis chapter 19 and indeed the angels are there, and they do turn some Sodomite sinners blind, but they’re not explicitly armed and up for a swordfight in the Desert City of Doom. Just so you know. In the case of Abraham, his anguish over having to split up a family, being the father of two sons with two different mothers, is rather well and vividly portrayed in my opinion. although it ends too abruptly and less satisfying, considering the resonance the tale of Isaac and Ishmael still contains in today’s world.

The Lion’s share of high-pitched drama and climactic sequences is reserved for Moses. He’s not played by Charlton Heston this time around, but he’s still a pretty impressive presence (even if I can’t find the actor’s name either on Internet Movie Database nor anywhere else at the moment). The Exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, have been strategically placed shortly before the end of the first episode and the following ‘previews of coming attractions’ such as King Saul and his off-and-on protegé David, Samson the hairy heavy-lifting guy and a certain Jesus. The budget seems overall to have been decent and production values convincing as a whole. The acting is a somewhat uneven thing, with some especially impressing performances that do stand out in the crowd. But remember it’s a cast with precious few household names involved.

And so, the decisive question: how often will Satan himself keep lurking around in the background, you know the guy some people in the blogosphere have identified as suspiciously resembling Barack Obama? I am quite sure I saw him somewhere already in the first part. The Evil One in his incarnation, by the way, is played by a Mr Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni who is not new to Biblical dramas, according to IMDb. And, if the producers of the show are to be believed, he’s not at all meant to make people think of the current US president, regardless of the speculations.

All in all, to be continued…

Note: This short review can also be found on in a Swedish-language version.

Official site for the History Channel’s Bible series

Arms around America – Part 1

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 12/01/2013

– You are a very loud man…
– You are a hatchet man of the new world order!
– Alex, Alex, Alex… (trying to interrupt a flow of angry rants)
– The republic will rise again if you try to take our guns!
Or something like that. By chance I happened to turn on CNN the other day when Piers Morgan was about to debate the issue of gun violence in the US with an, indeed, very loud man called Alex Jones, one of apparently quite a few Americans who have signed a petition to have Mr Morgan deported. Morgan has come out in favour of more gun control, which for myself and, dare I say, probably a lot of people in Sweden – and Europe in general – seems a fairly reasonable idea. And from what I’ve seen of Mr Jones in this debate I wonder if even most debaters with a similar viewpoint think he does them a favour with this performance, even though he seems to have gathered a few facts of his own to support his claims that the US as a whole is a less violent place than for example Britain, and that’s because of, not in spite of, the higher rate of gun ownership in America.
– He seems unhinged to me, comments Morgan when Jones has left the studio and the conversation continues with Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz with whom he seems to agree on most issues involved.
And I have to say, I wouldn’t think I’d feel safe being around Alex Jones when he actually is armed…

This issue has been discussed on and off for a long time. And the perspectives are different on our side of the Atlantic, that’s obvious. The tradition of and attitude towards citizens carrying their own firearms are not the same. Well, of course in my country there are the hunting rifles brought out not least during the elk-hunting season. But you do need a license to carry those. And the rate of gun-related killings in Europe is, as most people are aware of, significantly lower in Europe (some 35 in Britain last year, according to Morgan) than in The US (where it’s more like 11 000 annually).

Well, many more informed people than I have weighed on the question of guns and America especially since the latest mass shooting, in a school just days before Christmas. Not least Americans; politicians, celebrities, activists… For some reason, most of them advocate some change in the system, questioning the wisdom of the laws as they are. Or maybe those are the ones that attracted my attention. It’s possible that I don’t watch Fox News enough…

Anyway, I’ll get back to some of those opinions in short while – I hope. Here, a brief summary in satirical fashion from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as an appetizer.

2012 – Dangerous Year for Journalists Worldwide

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 28/12/2012

2012 was a difficult year for journalists worldwide, according to the latest annual report from Reporters Without Borders. In all, 88 journalists were killed in their line of duty, while 879 were arrested, 38 kidnapped and 73 had to flee their country. Also, bloggers and so called netizens were affected by the same challenges and risks. In that community there were casualties as well.

This means that 2012 was the worst year for journalists globally since the organization started surveying these statistics in 1995. It’s a 33 percent rise in fatalities compared to 2011. Especially in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the situation has deteriorated. Sometimes these deaths occur while the reporters work in war zones, while other times it’s a question of assassinations carried out or ordered by extremists, organized crime organizations or corrupt officials. Syria, Somalia and Pakistan are among the worst places to be a journalist or news provider of other kinds today. Some cold hard numbers:

Syria: 17 journalists and 44 citizen-journalists killed in 2012

Somalia: 18 journalists killed

Pakistan: 10 journalists killed

Mexico: 6 journalists killed

Brazil: 5 journalists killed

In the cases of Mexico and Brazil, the targeting of reporters is usually connected to crime cartels, as in drug traffickers and their associates.

A number of reporters are also incarcerated by their governments, such as in China (maybe not that surprising) and Eritrea (not that unexpected either) but also in Turkey where actually more news providers are locked up than by either one of the other two, famously repressive regimes mentioned here. That is, unless you count so called netizens like bloggers and activists who are routinely monitored by the Chinese government. The situation in Iran has also become more difficult in that respect since the protest movement in 2009.

Other nations’ violations of free speech, maybe not so well known by the public in general, include Oman where 30 bloggers have been arrested to avoid something similar to the ‘Arab spring’ movement there; the Maldives where a sort of coup d’état was carried out; and increasing censorship in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Sudan.

Source: ”News Providers Decimated in 2012” by Reporters Without Borders. Full report available in for example English, Arabic, German and Swedish.

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